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All 50 states have issued warnings about mysterious packages of seeds

The packages appear to be coming from China, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). P..

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The packages appear to be coming from China, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Photos shared by state agriculture departments show packages marked with labeling from China Post, which operates the official postal service of China. Some of the labels also indicate that the packages contain jewelry, although inside is typically a packet of seeds in clear, plastic packaging.Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said at a briefing on Tuesday that the address labels were forged and that China Post has asked USPS to send those packages to China for investigation. USPS said in a statement that it was aware of the mailings and is in consultation with federal, state and local partners. The agency declined to elaborate further. It's not exactly clear who is behind the packages or what their intent is, but the leading theory is that they are part of a "brushing scam" — when third-party sellers send people items they didn't order and write glowing product reviews on their behalf. "At this time, we don't have any evidence indicating this is something other than a 'brushing scam' where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales," the USDA said in a statement on Tuesday.The USDA said its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was investigating the situation along with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies and state agriculture departments. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also investigating similar reports from residents.

Officials think it could be part of a 'brushing scam'

Officials haven't confirmed for sure whether these packages are an example of "brushing." But it seems to be a likely possibility given that most of the recipients say they didn't order the items, said Katherine Hutt, chief communications officer for the Better Business Bureau."When people get a package that they didn't order, that's one of the first things that we suspect," Hutt told CNN.Brushing is typically carried out by third-party sellers on Amazon, Ebay, Etsy or other e-commerce platforms who are looking to boost sales through positive reviews, explained Hutt. Those platforms typically only accept reviews for fulfilled orders, so the sellers will ship unsolicited items to recipients and use their names to pose as satisfied customers and submit fake, glowing reviews on their behalf. Those reviews could be for any product, despite what item the recipient actually received. That might be why some of the packages people have received in recent weeks have been labeled as containing jewelry despite containing seeds, Hutt said. It just so happens that seeds are lightweight and likely cheaper to mail.If you're the target of a brushing scam, that doesn't necessarily mean any of your personal information has been compromised beyond your name and address, Hutt said. And in the case of these packages of seeds, so far there haven't been any reports or evidence indicating that people have been hacked.

What you should do if you get a package

If you happened to receive one of these packages, here is what the USDA and Better Business Bureau recommend you do:

  • Contact your state plant regulatory official or APHIS state plant health director. You can find that information here and here, respectively.
  • Keep the packaging and mailing label intact. TheUSDA asks that people hold onto the packages until they receive further instructions from authorities.
  • Don't open the packet of seeds or plant them. Right now, their origins are unknown. The USDA is planning to test the contents of the packages to determine whether they pose any agricultural or environmental risks.
  • Don't discard them in the trash. They could end up in a landfill, where they could take root.
  • Make sure personal information hasn't been compromised. "Brushing scams" could indicate that someone has obtained your personal data. Check your bank statements, credit reports and credit card bills periodically to ensure nothing nefarious is taking place.
  • Check the USDA and your state agencies for updates. These are the warnings from each state: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Read More – Source

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‘QAnon Shaman’ Jake Angeli charged over pro-Trump riots

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A prominent follower of the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon has been charged over the US Capitol riots.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli, is in custody on charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Mr Chansley, who calls himself the QAnon Shaman, is allegedly the man pictured with a painted face, fur hat and horns inside Congress on Wednesday.

Donald Trump faces another impeachment charge for his role in the unrest.

Democrats accuse the president of encouraging the riots, in which five people died.

The FBI has been appealing to the public to help bring the assailants to justice.

Mr Chansley has not commented publicly on the charges.

A statement from the federal attorney for Washington DC said: “It is alleged that Chansley was identified as the man seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants.

“This individual carried a spear, approximately 6 feet in length, with an American flag tied just below the blade.”

The statement said police had also detained a man from Florida believed to have been photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern from the House of Representatives chamber.

Adam Johnson, 36, is being held on charges including one count of theft of government property and one count of violent entry.

Also among those charged is West Virginia lawmaker, Derrick Evans. He is alleged to have posted a video of himself online, standing outside the building with Trump supporters, and then going inside.

He was arrested on Friday and is also accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds, the Department of Justice statement said.

More than a dozen people have now been charged in offences related to the assault on the Capitol building. They include an Alabama man allegedly found with 11 Molotov cocktails near the unrest.

Mr Trump is due to leave office in 11 days. Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to introduce an article of impeachment against him on Monday, for “incitement of insurrection”.

A White House spokesperson said impeaching the president at this late stage would only further divide the country.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55606044

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US election: Trump tells Georgia election official to ‘find’ votes to overturn Biden win

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US President Donald Trump has been recorded telling Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn the election result.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Mr Trump told Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a recording released by the Washington Post.

Mr Raffensperger is heard replying that Georgia’s results were correct.

Mr Biden won Georgia alongside other swing states, winning 306 electoral college votes to his Mr Trump’s 232.

Since the 3 November vote, Mr Trump has been alleging widespread electoral fraud without providing any evidence.

He tweeted on Sunday that Mr Raffensperger had not given details of the fraud the president alleges. “He has no clue!” the president tweeted.

All 50 states have certified the election result, some after recounts and legal appeals. So far, US courts have rejected 60 challenges to Mr Biden’s win.

Congress is due to formally approve the election result on 6 January.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, is due to be inaugurated as president on 20 January.

Voters in Georgia are due to vote again on Tuesday to elect two senators for the state. The result could determine the balance of power in the Senate – if the two Democrat contenders win, then there will be equal numbers of Republican and Democratic senators and Democratic Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will have the deciding vote.

Mr Biden’s Democrats already control the lower House of Representatives.

What happened during the call?

In the excerpts released by Washington Post, Mr Trump can be heard alternately cajoling and pressurising Georgia’s secretary of state.

He insisted that he had won the election in Georgia and told Mr Raffensperger that there was “nothing wrong with saying you have recalculated”.

Mr Raffensperger responded by saying: “The challenge you have Mr president is that the data you have is wrong.”

Later in the call Mr Trump said the rumour was that ballots had been shredded and voting machinery had been removed from Fulton County in the state – a charge Mr Raffensperger’s lawyer said it was not the case.

The president then threatened the official with possible legal consequences.

“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offence. You can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer,” Mr Trump said.

He told Mr Raffensperger he should re-examine the result in the state.

“You can re-examine it, but re-examine it with people who want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers,” he said.

“Mr President, you have people who submit information and we have our people that submit information and then it comes before the court and the court has to make a determination,” Mr Raffensperger replied. “We have to stand by our numbers, we believe our numbers are right.”

 

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-55524838

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Fact-checking Trump’s conspiracy theory connecting Georgia’s secretary of state to China

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In the waning days of his presidency, Donald Trump continues to spread nonsense conspiracies over the 2020 election and the officials who oversaw it, attacking Georgia’s governor and secretary of state on Twitter Tuesday.

Following Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s announcement that a ballot signature match audit found no evidence of absentee voter fraud in Cobb County, Georgia, Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory linking Raffensperger to the Chinese government.
Trump tweeted that Raffensperger has a brother who “works for China,” insinuating some nefarious, pro-China plot to have Trump lose the race in Georgia.
“Now it turns out that Brad R’s brother works for China, and they definitely don’t want ‘Trump’. So disgusting!” the President tweeted after attacking Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Facts First: This is false. A spokesperson for Raffensperger told CNN that the secretary of state has no siblings who work for China, as Trump baselessly alleged.
“There are no relatives who work for China or are affiliated with China,” said Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.
Though it’s unclear exactly where Trump is getting the idea that Raffensperger’s brother works for China, it’s possible he is picking up on a false conspiracy theory spread by former political consultant Dick Morris, who made the allegation during an interview on Newsmax Tuesday evening and on his personal website.
In the interview, Morris leveled several false or misleading accusations against Raffensberger, including that Raffensperger is related to Ron Raffensperger, the chief technology officer of the Chinese company Huawei Enterprise Storage Solutions. Fuchs said that the secretary of state does not have a sibling named Ron.
Georgia Public Broadcasting reported Wednesday “public documents and records [show] that Raffensperger does have four siblings, including a brother, but none of them are named Ron, none work for Chinese technology companies.”
Morris also falsely accused Raffensperger of standing in the way of recounts and refusing to verify signatures. Georgia conducted a statewide audit, hand-counting about 5 million ballots and Raffensperger oversaw an additional recount. And in addition to the state’s existing signature verification process that occurs twice in the case of absentee ballots requested by mail, Raffensberger announced his office would help conduct a signature match audit statewide to further verify signatures on absentee ballots.
In a statement, Newsmax told CNN:
“Newsmax has never made any claim of impropriety by Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger or any member of his family. On Tuesday night, while appearing on the network, commentator Dick Morris claimed he was reporting on Dickmorris.com an allegation that Raffensperger had a brother who worked at a Chinese company. This claim was apparently inaccurate. During the segment the Newsmax host was highly skeptical of Mr. Morris’ claims and suggested there was no evidence behind Mr. Morris’ assertion, and specifically asked Mr. Morris to provide evidence of his claim.”
CNN has attempted to reach Morris for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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